Many have wondered if the fans would come back after a lengthy and sometimes messy lockout. When the overnight ratings for the Christmas Day games came in earlier today, I think we got our answer…everyone just wants to watch some good basketball. The games averaged 6.2 million viewers, which is up from 6 million last year. According to the Associated Press, the Bulls-Lakers game was the third most watched regular season game in ABC history, and the Celtics-Knicks game on TNT that led off the coverage was up 48 percent over the same time slot last year (Bulls vs. Knicks on ESPN). The NBA has as much if not more talent than any other era in the history of the game. The story lines are compelling and the coverage of the games are second to none (except for when we have to listen to Jeff Van Gundy of course). With the packed season we’re going to have games available to us just about every night of the week….perfect timing now that we can’t watch MAC football games on Tuesday night anymore.
We all woke up yesterday morning to the phenomenal news that the NBA Lockout was soon to be over. The owners and players have agreed to a new 10-year deal in principle. The deal still needs to be ratified by both sides, and some other secondary issues still need to be decided upon (i.e. drug testing, minimum age to enter draft, etc). Throughout the day I was following the fan response on Facebook and Twitter and was shocked to see the animosity that so many had for the NBA. “I don’t care if the Lockout is over. All the players are overpaid anyway. It’s going to take a long time for them to get me back watching games.” (Note: The idea that players are overpaid is absurd. The market sets their value based off of what you and I are willing to pay to watch their games either on TV or in the stadium. As long as we keep showing up and paying what we do…the players will continue to make the same amount. I believe the phrase is, “don’t hate the player, hate the game.”) Do you remember this kind of angst towards the NFL players when the Lockout was finally ended? I don’t, and I frankly don’t understand why people are so upset at the NBA for this. Sure, the Lockout lasted a few weeks longer, and the debate was a bit more contentious, but was it really that much different? I would have loved it if they would have wrapped it up sooner, but let’s be honest, none of us were going to start watching until Christmas anyway….
I think it might be because it’s a full-on train wreck happening right before our eyes. The two sides continue to go back and forth on topics that they seem miles apart on. Now, supposedly the NBPA has given Derek Fisher the go-ahead to accept the 50/50 basketball related income split, but only if they can have some new concessions with the mid-level exception and other “system” issues. I don’t know if the players aren’t paying attention or what, but rumor has it that as many as 13 owners are willing to cancel the full season today to make sure they get the best deal. I doubt that almost 50% of the players are willing to take a similar stance to get what they want out of this deal. Billionaires beat millionaires 100 times out of 100. I think the owners have put out the best possible deal for the players at this point. If I’m Derek Fisher, I’m pushing the NBPA to take this thing and run….immediately.